How To Be A Good Foster Parent – Requirements And Regulations

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Child rights is a sensitive topic across the world, and governments come up with regulations to make sure that the rights are not violated. Foster care is one such matter where laws are strict to ensure the safety and welfare of the child.

People are increasingly showing interest in fostering children. If you are one of them, then know the procedure that you need to follow as it will keep you prepared for the long-drawn process. MomJunction helps you understand the intricacies of being a foster parent, the processes involved, and the pros and cons of fostering a child.

What Are The Requirements To Be A Foster Parent?

The foster care requirements vary depending on the laws of the land where foster parents live. Across the US, there are certain state-specific and some common guidelines that you will have to obey, irrespective of your region. Here are some of them:

  • Age restrictions: To be a foster parent, you have to be at least 25 years old.
  • Clean background: You should not have any criminal record. You will most likely be asked to pass through a Criminal Background Check at your local police station.
  • Availability of a spare bedroom: Having at least one spare (and clean)bedroom in the house is compulsory.
  • Regular monthly income: A steady and regular income is required with which you can provide for your family’s basic needs.
  • Relationship status: You can either be single or married for you to become a foster parent.
  • Availability of a personal vehicle: You should have a vehicle that can accommodate all the persons in the family. You need to hold a valid driver’s license, have a clean driving history with no offenses such as
  • driving under the influence of alcohol, over speeding, etc.
  • Have a safe home: Your home would undergo a safety check and test.
  • Rented or own place: You can be living either in your own home or apartment or in a rented home or apartment, as long as it is safe and comfortable for the foster child.
  • Flexible schedule to cater to the child’s needs: No matter where you work and what you do, you would have to spare time for the child’s needs. You would also have to take time out to accompany your foster child for any court ordered activities or visitations, suggested medical therapies or appointments, etc.
  • Be available for supervision: When your foster child is not at school and is at home instead, you should be available to supervise and take care of him.

[ Read: Common Problems Of Adoption ]

State Regulations That Foster Parents Will Have To Pass And/Or Follow:

Apart from the requirements mentioned above, here are some basic state regulations that you will have to pass through or follow as a foster parent. However, remember that a few rules may differ based on the laws of your state or country of residence.

  • All firearms or weapons to be stored properly and safely: In case you have a registered firearm or any legal weapon at home, you are supposed to keep it unloaded (if it is a firearm) and out of the child’s reach. These should be properly protected and locked away for safety.
  • Vehicle to be in proper working condition: The vehicle that you own should be in proper working condition. It should be big enough for all members of the family, including your foster child, to be able to sit in comfortably. Also, it should have all the assigned seat belts and children car seats as per the age of the children.
  • Separate bedroom for adult and two-year-old child: If you have a foster child who is older than two years of age, the child cannot share a room with an adult. You will have to make sure that you can provide a separate, safe, and comfortable room for the child.
  • Only two children per bedroom and of same gender: If you have multiple children in the house, you have to make sure that there are only two children sharing a bedroom. If the child is five years old or more, the other child who shares the room also has to be of the same gender.
  • All medications to be stored safely: All medicines, which you have at home , should be stored safely and locked to keep them out of children’s reach.
  • Swimming pool has to be securely fenced: If you have a swimming pool in the house, it should be properly fenced as per the safety standards and requirements.
  • All phones should be in proper working condition: All phones should be properly connected and in working condition. Children should be able to reach out to you or others in case of an emergency.
  • Alcoholic beverages to be stored away and safely: If you have any alcoholic beverages, they should be stored and kept out of the reach of children.
  • Corporal punishment can never be used: You can never use corporal punishment under any circumstances on your foster child, even if you find it difficult to discipline him.

[ Read: How To Prevent Adopted Child Syndrome ]

Adoption Process Through Foster Care:

Before you go into the details about adoption through foster care, here are some things you should know about children who are placed under foster care system:

  • On an average, the children are usually eight years old. Many of these children could also have siblings and are unable to stay with them for various reasons.
  • Most children placed in the foster care setup are healthy, well-mannered, and intelligent. They are the same as other children who live with their biological families.

When a child is placed in foster care, sometimes, the foster parent and the child form a strong emotional bond and the parent may want to legalize it through adoption. If you are a foster parent and planning to adopt the child, here are some points that may help.

Legal implications:

Foster care and adoption are legally different from each other. Foster care is intended to be a temporary arrangement where you take care of a child or youth who is unable to be with his biological family.

Once the biological parents are able to take the child back into the family, or if a family expresses interest in adopting the child, the role of the foster parent ends.

Decision-making powers are different:

When you are a foster parent, you are not the sole decision maker for the child. You need to share your details with the agency that has placed the child in your care. If the child has biological parents, they could be involved too. However, when you adopt the foster child through proper legal channels, you take the entire responsibility for the child.

Some important decisions to be taken are which school the child will go to, what will be the visitation arrangement with the child’s birth family, traveling outside the state or country where you have adopted the child.

There are adoptive parents who take decisions in consultation with biological parents. However, the ultimate decision-making power rests with the adoptive parents, and they can rule out the decisions made by the biological parents.

[ Read: Tips To Bond With Adopted Child ]

Issues related to attachment:

When you and your foster child form a bond, you are both aware that this temporary foster care arrangement will come to an end. If and when you decide to take this bond further and become an adoptive parent instead of just a foster parent, there may be some new emotional issues.

When you enter an adoptive parent and child relationship, things become permanent. Everyday interactions that were earlier a source of love could turn into a source of irritation. You may feel like you are caught and cannot come out of a situation.

Relationship with the birth parents:

If you have a healthy relationship with the foster child’s biological parents, then it i good to maintain the relationship even after adoption. The child will have access to both parents and will help him have better mental and psychological development.

Pros And Cons Of Foster Care:

Before wanting to foster-care a child, weigh your options. Know what can be good about your decision, and what can go wrong.

[ Read: Open Adoption Vs Closed Adoption ]

Pros Of Foster Care:

Being a foster parent means giving a new life to a child. It can bring you immense satisfaction and happiness. Here are a few benefits of fostering:

  1. It is a boost to society: The number of children who are waiting for foster care is way higher than the number of people who are willing or ready to provide that care. Those who offer to become foster parents do a big service to the society. Instead of letting the children stay alone in an orphanage, a foster parent offers the warmth of a home to the child. It makes the child feel happy and better and help him grow stronger.
  1. Helps to form strong bond: As a foster parent, you can form a strong bond with your foster child, making him get the love and care that he has been missing in his life.
  1. A good start to adoption: If you are looking to adopt in the future, being a foster parent could be a good way to try out the process. Becoming a foster parent will give you an idea of how it feels to be with that child. If you adopt the foster child, you would have to pay lower fees than what you would to start the process of adoption.
  1. An enriching experience: If you do not have children, being a foster parent can give the experience of being a parent. While you may initially feel stressed out with responsibilities but will eventually get used to the new job. It can be an enriching experience when you know that your child depends on you and that you are responsible for the child’s well-being and care. It is a mutually rewarding experience.

[ Read: What Is Semi-Open Adoption]

Cons Of Foster Care:

Not everything about your decision could be a pleasing experience. Be prepared for any adversities or unpleasantness too:

  1. Emotional issues: When you and your foster child form a strong bond, it can be extremely difficult and cruel to separate. It may not always be possible to adopt your foster child, and in such cases, you and the child could go through emotional trauma.
  1. Financial strain: While the government pays you a certain amount for fostering a child, it may not always be enough. If you do not have a steady source of income that can comfortably cover all these expenses, it can leave you feeling financially drained and stressed. Also, you may find it difficult to explain to the foster care agency how you have to spend more for the child.
  1. Paperwork and training: Before you become a foster parent, you need to go through a lot of paperwork, and some pre-set training program. It means that you will have set some time aside these processes.
  1. Strain in the family: The entry of an ‘outside’ child may not be a welcome development for everybody in the family. Before taking this step, talk to the members of your family, know their opinion and ensure that there will not be opposition or grudge toward the child.
  1. You may feel judged: You are subjected to intense scrutiny by the agency before you get a foster child. Your character is analyzed and you are judged. All this is done in the interest of the foster child but could offend you as everything from your home to your character is under the scanner.

[ Read: Child Adoption Facts ]

Being a foster parent is a wonderful way to give a loving, caring, and safe home to a child. It establishes a bond for a lifetime. However, as it is a very important decision and relationship, make a far-sighted decision instead of giving in to your temporary emotions.

If you have fostered a child, do share your experiences in the comment section, to help our readers.

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